Council apologises to grieving friends and family after sea defence plans spark anger
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A council has apologised to grieving family and friends after submitting a planning application for a sea defence scheme – without considering four memorial benches.
Now the best friend of a young woman who died from cancer has slammed the authority for causing distress and not keeping residents informed.
Kerry Roberts, 31, says her late best friend Rachel Jones loved the Prestatyn promenade so much that Rachel’s family and close friends decided to pay for a bench in her memory. Tragically, Rachel died aged 25 on 16 February 2017 after a 14-month battle with bowel cancer.
But Kerry is furious with Denbighshire County Council for submitting their controversial planning application to build a nine-foot-high earth bund near the promenade in the area near Green Lanes.
Funded by the Welsh Government, the £20m coastal defence scheme will protect 2,100 homes in the area.
Kerry says she was best friends with Rachel from the age of two, both attending Ysgol Penmorfa and Prestatyn High.
Kerry organised several half-marathon events to help pay for the bench but was angry with the council’s failure to contact her.
The council say they ‘expect’ the benches to remain but admitted they would have to be moved temporarily.
Kerry said: “There has been no communication, nothing from the council to us. I go to that bench, and I’ve not seen anything tied to it.
“I’m quite disappointed. There has been no consultation. They will have my details from the form I filled in when we purchased the bench. We picked that bench for a reason because it means something to the family and Rachel.
“I’m really angry because that is our place to remember Rachel. She was my best friend since we were two years old, and especially now as it is coming closer to the anniversary of her passing.”
Kerry explained Prestatyn promenade is a special place for Rachel’s family and friends.
“It’s a spot that Rachel absolutely loved going to,” she said.
“She used to call it the South of France because it is a suntrap. You are secluded from the wind with an absolutely gorgeous view over the golf course and the mountain.
“Rachel was my best friend, but I’m so close to her family. They are my family as well. We picked that spot because it was special to her and special to us. We sometimes go and have a picnic there and remember Rachel in the summer and take a glass of gin and a slice of cake.
“It is our memorial place because Rachel doesn’t have a gravestone. We just have that bench. We all walk there all the time, whenever it is
Rachel’s birthday, anniversary or Christmas. That’s our spot. That’s why we picked there.”
She added: “It is heart-wrenching to think they’ve not even thought about these families. Because it’s not just Rachel. There are three other benches in that area. So I’m sure that the families of the people remembered on the other benches will feel the same.”
A spokesman for Denbighshire County Council commented: “We are sorry for any distress this has caused relatives and friends.
“We have been looking into this as a matter of urgency now that we have been made aware of the memorial benches.
“The benches are located in the vicinity of the proposed scheme; however under the plans we expect the benches will be able to remain in place following completion of any work.
“During construction, access to the area may need to be restricted and storage of the benches may be required to ensure their safety.
“We are in the process of trying to contact relatives to discuss whether the benches could be sensitively relocated or stored should the proposed works go ahead.
“The views of the families are extremely important and no decision will be taken without their views being taken into consideration.”
‘Already caused controversy’
The sea defence scheme has already caused controversy in the town after the original plans displayed in the consultation were changed.
The earth bund was originally set to be constructed on Rhyl Golf Club’s course; however, amended plans show the bund will now be at the boundary with Green Lanes – if it gets the go-ahead.
Residents living on Green Lanes are furious their sea views could be ruined, with many complaining they had no knowledge despite a pre-planning application consultation.
Cllr Paul Penlington criticised the council.
“Since this story was in the press I have had numerous people contact me who live right alongside the area for proposed development who knew nothing about Denbighshire County Council’s (DCC) plans,” he said.
“I had thought DCC’s consultation was inadequate. I have now learnt it was actually a complete failure.
“It is absolutely appalling that they are rushing the new plan residents knew nothing about through.”
“I have asked DCC numerous times why they changed their plans and what negotiations took place with the Golf Club. They have refused to tell me. It is hard not to be very suspicious of the secrecy surrounding this.”
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